152. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State0

2536. CINCPAC for POLAD. Embassy telegram 2154.1 Our military assistance to Indo has lost much of promising 1958–59 momentum in strengthening anti-Communist cause. There are several reasons for this, only one of which is competition provided by open-handed largesse of Soviet military services. While this presently beyond our control, other reasons subject to corrective action by us.

Most important corrective action necessary is to revise our whole approach to Indo armed forces, abandoning doctrine of “token” aid in favor of wholehearted cooperation between equals. Our limited aid program was conceived as application of carrot technique. If Indo armed forces effectively anti-Communist, we would reward this by limited amount of assistance, then stand back observe results. A little more anti-Communism, a little more aid, etc., holding out promise of full cooperation in distant future.

Indos, of course, quickly became aware from our performance that something of kind was in wind, galling their nationalistic sensibilities to [Page 320] utmost. Meanwhile, we insisted on aid mechanics devised primarily for application to such countries as Thailand, Republic of China, South Korea, Philippines. It was US that set force goals within which aid requests would be fixed. These force goals, of course, had to make “military sense” from point of view of military men. At same time, we were strictly enjoined from talking to Indos in terms of assistance farther ahead than current fiscal year, while seeking on other hand to draw from them firm estimates as to their own intentions.

All this has been bewildering enough to Indos. When unexplained delay in deliveries, failure to answer simple questions about US willingness to supply such mundane requirements as Marine Corps rifles are added to picture, it is easy to understand why Indos desire alternative source of military supply. (Rifles removed as current case in point by Deptel 1368.)2 As though this lack of flexibility were not enough, additional handicap of politically inspired limitations on types of weapons which can be sold to Indo, limitations clearly intended meet wishes of enemy Dutch, has settled question even in minds of most pro-American officers.

SovBloc is, of course, meanwhile using its military aid offers in shrewd attempt to undermine Army/Navy faith in its own leadership which up to now is sole force able prevent Communist takeover Indo. Bloc strategy is to show Army/Navy that their present military leaders, in spite of anti-Communist posture, must when chips down turn to bloc to meet real needs armed forces.3

In this situation it is futile for us to try any longer to straightjacket Indo Army/Navy by our force goals and political restrictions.

Instead, our military aid program should be rapidly revised to: 1) strengthen confidence in US on part of anti-Communist Indo military leadership; 2) prevent Soviets from being sole source of conspicuous equipment (such as operational aircraft, amphibious tanks, heavy AA weapons, combat ships) which creates impression armed forces must rely on them; and 3) supply some of modern, complex equipment Indos want so as to reduce numbers of future Indo military leaders and technicians trained in bloc or by bloc mission in Indo. Incentive for them to train in US or by US training teams here would thus be provided.

[Page 321]

Foregoing program is based on recognition of fact fundamental purpose in providing aid is political: namely strengthening anti-Communist military leadership. That means we must base future decision re type and size equipment on Indo’s own concept of roles and missions, which not confined to internal security alone. We can no longer, in any event, forestall Indos from developing the strength to oust Dutch from WNG or from building kind of forces they consider they require. Like other ambitious but insecure new countries, they are convinced strong armed forces essential to consolidation nationhood and establishment prestige.

While we cannot and should not attempt match bloc aid in amount, we should appreciate and respond sympathetically to reasonable determination Indo military leaders to have size and quantity forces appropriate to this sixth largest nation, located on vulnerable flank of highly strategic area of increasing significance and whose natural enemy, as even FonMin admits privately, is same as that of US and its Asian allies: namely Communist China.

We should recognize Indo, unlike most other nations receiving MAP aid, has no commitment to mutual defense objectives, does not consider that its forces are part of US grand strategy, and therefore conditions here do not conform to usual format for MAAG reports and congressional justifications. Adjustment of our policies and procedures to this situation is essential if we are to succeed. On positive side, to implement adjustment in program, I strongly recommend: 1) early conversion of token program established to meet needs existing in 1958 into full-scale programs; and 2) authorization MILTAG to discuss five-year program, on non-commitment basis, with Indo military leaders in order permit timely revisions which may help reduce equipment to be procured from Soviets.

Program increase should permit supply of equipment strongly desired by Nasution, Jani and staff, such as armored cars and light tanks, which if not obtainable otherwise, should be supplied by US offshore purchase. Increase also should support Martadinata’s ultimate 60,000-strong navy. Similar example of revised program content would be provision of some of jet fighter aircraft described by Nurtanio (AIRA C–109 DTG 260339Z Oct),4 as well as heavy construction equipment army leadership strongly desires and now reportedly planning obtain from Soviet sources. We should also immediately authorize direct purchase other US military equipment on favorable terms, as Indos willing pay in hard currency for some of equipment they need.

It is, of course, not necessary that additional equipment begin arriving immediately. What is needed is evidence of new approach as manifested in ability provide commitments to begin supplying desired items [Page 322] within reasonable time. This, of course, raises question ability Indo armed forces to utilize. While they have far to go, absorptive capacity has improved. Further, there are strong indications that demonstration sincere US intention provide increased support on more than year-to-year basis would slow down Indo desire buy excess equipment against anticipated day of famine. Chief problems are insufficient trained technicians, supervisory personnel in navy, limited maintenance capability air force, army. Problems of absorptive capacity can be aided to considerable extent by additional mobile training plus some increase in MILTAG’s staff. Soviets, of course, unconcerned about this problem, do not raise questions as to absorptive capacity.

Finally, priority of Indo for deliveries should now be raised. Present long lead times suggest Indo well down on list for production and shipping authorities. Irrespective of reasons therefor, great gap between expedited arrival by air of equipment planned in FY 1958 and that for subsequent fiscal years has created doubt among military leaders re US intentions. At present stage Indos unable plan far ahead, which makes quick response to their requests important. Continuation of delay between decision and performance will further tend induce Indo reliance on Soviet sources supply.

Military aid program so adjusted is essential if US is to improve its leverage within Indo armed forces in face Soviet aid campaign. Most Indo military leaders would prefer US aid but ideological considerations alone will not induce them to reject Soviet alternatives.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.98/3–761. Secret. Also sent to CINCPAC.
  2. Document 143.
  3. Dated March 5. (Department of State, Central Files, 798.56/2–161)
  4. In a March 2 memorandum to McGeorge Bundy, Komer commented: “Anyone who doesn’t believe that the Indonesians are planning something eventually in West New Guinea need only look at the new Soviet aid agreements.” He listed the equipment the Soviets were supplying and concluded:

    “Since the only conceivable amphibious operation Indos might have in mind would be New Guinea, it’s quite clear what they have in mind, and Sovs egging them on to do it.” (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, West New Guinea, Vol. I, 2/61–3/61)

  5. Dated October 26, 1960. (Department of State, Central Files, 798.56/10–2660)